A messenger came and told David, “The hearts of the people of Israel are with Absalom.”
Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, “Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin on us and put the city to the sword.”
The king’s officials answered him, “Your servants are ready to do whatever our lord the king chooses.”
The king set out, with his entire household following him; but he left ten concubines to take care of the palace. So, the king set out, with all the people following him, and they halted at the edge of the city. All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and Pelethites; and all the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king.
The king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why should you come along with us? Go back and stay with King Absalom. You are a foreigner, an exile from your homeland. You came only yesterday. And today shall I make you wander about with us when I do not know where I am going? Go back and take your people with you. May the Lord show you kindness and faithfulness.”
But Ittai replied to the king, “As surely as the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.”
David said to Ittai, “Go ahead, march on.” So Ittai the Gittite marched on with all his men and the families that were with him.
The whole countryside wept aloud as all the people passed by. The king also crossed the Kidron Valley, and all the people moved on toward the wilderness.
Zadok was there, too, and all the Levites who were with him were carrying the ark of the covenant of God. They set down the ark of God, and Abiathar offered sacrifices until all the people had finished leaving the city.
Then the king said to Zadok, “Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him.”
The king also said to Zadok the priest, “Do you understand? Go back to the city with my blessing. Take your son Ahimaaz with you, and also Abiathar’s son Jonathan. You and Abiathar return with your two sons. I will wait at the fords in the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me.” So Zadok and Abiathar took the ark of God back to Jerusalem and stayed there.
But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered, and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up. Now David had been told, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” So, David prayed, “Lord, turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness.” (New International Version)
It’s an understatement to say that King David had family drama.
Maybe that’s because he had a lot of wives and even more kids. Or it could be that being a king didn’t transfer well to being a father. And it just might be that his experience was mostly about simply living in a fallen world, full of icky relational dynamics and human conflict.
David seemed to be at his best when at his lowest. His son, Absalom, carefully designed a conspiracy to take over the kingdom. And it was looking as though he might just do it. David, and those loyal to him, fled Jerusalem to avoid being overthrown and killed. They were between a rock and a hard place, to put it mildly. David was literally running for his life.
If we put ourselves in David’s sandals, how would we respond?
I suppose, at the least, we would likely complain. Who is Absalom that he should dishonor his father in such a way as this? Then, we may try and find ways to maintain power, and get back at Absalom for being a rebellious and destructive son.
I am humbled by David’s unflagging trust in God. Like the suffering Job centuries before him, David was willing to receive anything from the hand of God, whether for good or evil. He wholesale accepted whatever seemed good to God, without attempting to force anything on the Lord. “Let God do to me what seems good to him,” was the faith affirmation of David.
Yet, at the same time, David was aware and in touch with his emotions as he left the city and ascended the Mount of Olives. He wept and lamented over the situation he and all those with him had to experience.
A thousand years later, Jesus took the same trek out of the city in great sorrow because of people who conspired against him. Christ faced the agony of the cross through the machinations of sinful humanity who did not want him as Lord over their lives.
Our confidence must rest in the God who is never caught unaware of our situations and always knows how to respond. We must rely on our prayers to the Lord as we navigate the difficulties of this life.
Humility goes a long way toward letting the will of God rule the day.
O Lord, please turn the plans and the counsel of evil persons into foolishness. Do not let the sinfulness of people have its way and run roughshod over my life. I trust in you to bend a bad situation toward your own good purpose through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.